Allusion Notes

Ne-Yo (feat. Jay-Z)

And Ne-yo is like young Michael, I'm Quincy hov
Now hear the flow that broke the Da Vinci code
I'm psycho
Everything i wrote go
Together so nice
Like a wedding make you wanna throw rice
I'm schitzo
Koo-koo clock don't tick so
Write sometimes til the chicks go noodles
I got screws loose
I pull words out the air like Bluetooth
I'm a sandwich short of a picnic
Ignorant thoughts come across you've sworn that I've written this
But I didn't so maybe
It's good to be crazy
Isn't it baby?

I wrote your name on my wall
3000 times last night
You were on my mind
That's what you do to me
That's what you do


Hip hop’s roots are almost as diverse as the appropriations it uses in its music. It draws on the Jamaican tradition of “toasting” (in which MC’s speak over records at block parties), the African American traditions of “the dozens” (put-down contests) and “signifying” (rhyming for amusement), and American popular musics such as rock, funk, reggae, and jazz. Hip hop began in this country in the late 1970s when Bronx DJs such as Kool DJ Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaata set up block parties using turntables, mixers, and loud sound systems, mixing the “break” or instrumental sections of records together to create their own dance mixes. Soon, DJ’s used MC’s (masters of ceremonies or microphone controllers) to keep the dancers motivated to dance and to add an air of verbal flash to the atmosphere. When sampling technology developed in the 1980s, the rap world quickly embraced it, as hip hop had from day one revolved around creating montages of “found” sources. The sampler expanded the sound of rap as it allowed DJ’s to create musical mosaics from any sound source, not just from records. At their core, samples (sounds appropriated from other sources are allusions, and because hip hop is built on samples, hip hop is the music of allusion. Few types of music can help today’s students understand allusion, not to mention poetry, better than hip hop.

An allusion is a reference to some cultural artifact, be it a person, place, thing, event, or quote. Allusions have the following effects:

  1. They conjure a number of associations and feelings in the reader in a minimal amount of space. In other words, they do the work so the author doesn’t have to. e.g.: Arrested Development’s sample of “Mommies Are People” in “Mama’s Always on Stage” for me brings back a flood of memories of childhood in the 1970s in under three seconds. When MC Lyte says “I am the Lyte,” people with a background in Christianity understand that she is comparing her power as a rapper with the power of God as a force of omnipotence and wisdom.
  2. They train the audience--the audience must figure out and understand the original source. e.g.: Ice Cube’s line “people see me and they wanna know how come I got a gat and I’m lookin’ out the window like Malcolm” refers to the picture of Malcolm X looking out the window of his home holding a rifle to protect his family from attacks. One must do a little research to understand the reference and meaning behind this allusion.
  3. They increase the audience’s bond with the author, as the author and audience become/are part of a select group who understand the allusion. e.g.: Das EFX’s allusion to the “Dukes of Hazzard” or the old “Connect Four” commercial with the line “pretty sneaky, sis” helps the band create an instant bond with kids who grew up watching a lot of TV in the early 1980s and alienates everyone else.
  4. They place an artist on a continuum with his influences and allow the author to honor his or her influences. e.g.: Chuck D rhyming in the style of the Last Poets or Public Enemy sampling Malcolm X’s voice helps the audience understand the link between Public Enemy’s message and the message of the 1960s and 1970s Black Power movement.
  5. They create a dialog between two or more texts--the original and the one at hand. e.g.: in rap, we could look at the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right to Party” and Public Enemy’s “Party for Your Right to Fight,” or in rock, we could look at the argument over “the southern man” between Neil Young and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
  6. They encourage a reading of the original text along the appropriator’s terms. e.g.: When Too Short samples Kool and the Gang’s “Hollywood Swinging” in “Money in the Ghetto,” we are encouraged to think of Kool and the Gang as creators of pimp music, whether they are or not. Too Short isn’t exceptionally gifted/insightful/smart, etc....
  7. They open the doors to reader-response interpretation of the text, as original sources have different connotations to different people. e.g.: The Isaac Hayes sample in Tricky’s “Hell Is Around the Corner” would have different effects on a twelve year old kid who has never heard Isaac Hayes and an Isaac Hayes fan in his fifties. The twelve year old kid might say, “Hey, this is funky new music unlike any I’ve heard before” where the baby boomer might say, “He’s just ripping off Isaac Hayes.”

What if somebody from the Chi that was ill got a deal on the hottest rap label around
But he wasn't talking bout coke and birds it was more like spoken word
Except he really putting it down
And he explained the story about how blacks came from glory
And what we need to do in the game
Good dude, Bad night, Right place, Wrong time
In the blink of an eye his whole life changed
If you could feel how my face felt you would know how Mase felt
Thank God I ain't to cool for the safe belt
I swear to God drive two on the sue
I got lawyer for the case to keep what's in my safe, safe
My dawgs couldn't tell if I
I look like Tom Cruise on Vanilla Sky, it was televised
All they heard was that I was in an accident like GEICO
They thought I was burnt up like Pepsi did Michael
I must got a angel
Cause look how death missed his ***
Unbreakable, would you thought they called me Mr. Glass
Look back on my life like the ghost of Christmas past
Toys R Us where I used to spend that Christmas cash
And I still won't grow up, I'm a grown *** kid
Swear I should be locked up for stupid **** that I did
But I'm a champion, so I turned tragedy to triumph
Make music that's fire, spit my soul through the wire

play me like a punk like penguin and the joker

I tawt I saw a putty cat, I did I did
the humpty dumpty bashful grumpy quaker nabisco crisco kid
cuz my styles figaro figaro figaro figaro like pinocchio's
big digital underground underground humpty dumpty camel hump
nose so play dosey doe suffering succotash my mistletoe is gone
snow white is after my seven dwarves my style and after me lucky
charms, so leapin leprechauns be glad I'm pushin' my pedal
to the metal I'm rugged and rough for cocoa puffs yes and I love my fruity pebbles

cuz I'm dip dip divin, so so socializin
clean out your ears, yes and open up your eyes
and I kick like bruce lee and jean claude van damme
so na na na na na na na na na na Batman!

I'm the hooper hyper protected by viper
when I'm not hoopin you'd better decipher
in other words you'd better make a funky decision
cuz I'm a be a shaq knife and cut you with precision
forget tony danza I'm the boss